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Biden made clear US continuing Israel support

US President Joe Biden has made clear that his country will continue to support Israel, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

The two leaders discussed the conflict during a meeting at the White House.

Mr Varadkar told media after the meeting that the US is working to try and secure a ceasefire for Ramadan. He had earlier called on the United States to work with Ireland to push for peace in the Middle East

Evoking the role the US played in brokering the Good Friday Agreement, Mr Varadkar asked the US to push for peace for Israelis and Palestinians.

“I think it is fair to say that the US is working very hard, particularly with other countries and Arab countries in the region, to try to put in place a ceasefire for a number of weeks over the Ramadan period,” he said.

“That will be linked obviously to hostages being released and also some prisoner exchanges, but a strong hope and belief that if that can be achieved, that there is the possibility then of something more permanent, and I know the US is using its influence on Israel to push that forward.

“The way they are being used at the moment is not self-defence”

“It’s not really for me to get into the conditions of a ceasefire. All that I want, and all that Ireland wants, is that this should happen immediately because the humanitarian situation in Gaza really is catastrophic.”

Asked about the US military aid for Israel, Mr Varadkar said he believes the way American weapons are being used “is not self-defence”.

“The president is very clear that the US would continue to support Israel and to assist Israel to defend itself so, I don’t think that’s going to change, but I think none of us like to see American weapons being used in the way they are.

“The way they are being used at the moment is not self-defence,” he added.

The Taoiseach said Mr Biden had updated him on US efforts to secure a humanitarian ceasefire, and restated Ireland’s call for a truce.

“We talked about the situation in the Middle East, in Israel and Palestine, restated Ireland’s call for an immediate ceasefire to allow food and medicines and aid to get into Gaza, the killing to stop, the hostages to get out.

“The president filled me in on the efforts that the Americans are making, the American administration is making, with our partners and other countries in the region to try to get to the point where we have a humanitarian ceasefire.

“I know the White House and the President is working very hard on that and believes that if we can secure a humanitarian ceasefire, even for a few weeks, to allow for hostages to be released and prisoners to be exchanged, that could be possible to build on that, for something more permanent.

“I think there really is an opportunity that something good could come out of all the horror we have seen in the last few months and that possibility of a comprehensives peace between Israel and its Arab neighbours and a two-state solution.”

Speaking before the meeting, Mr Biden said that Ireland and the US were “working together to increase humanitarian assistance in Gaza and we both know there’s a lot more that has to be done”.

Mr Varadkar said he would raise the situation in Gaza, economic support for Ukraine, the return of the power-sharing institutions in Northern Ireland and economic ties between the US and Ireland during the meeting.

In brief comments to the media moments before the meeting, Mr Varadkar said he was “keen to talk” about the situation in Gaza.

“You’ll know my view that we need to have a ceasefire as soon as possible to get food and medicine in, get the hostages out,” the Taoiseach said in the Oval Office.

“We need to talk about how we can make that happen and move towards a two-state solution, which I think is the only way we’ll have lasting peace and security.”

Mr Biden said “I agree” in response to Mr Varadkar’s comments on a ceasefire and again to the two-state solution.

Gaza catastrophe ‘will haunt for years to come’

Mr Varadkar also told US vice president Kamala Harris and others gathered for a St Patrick’s Day breakfast at the vice president’s residence that the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza “will haunt us all for years to come”.

“In Ireland, we know how quickly atrocities can lead to calls for vengeance, to creating new cycles of hatred and bitterness. But we also know that the cycle can be broken and that new hope can replace old hatreds,” Mr Varadkar said.

“The United States helped us to find peace, now let us work together to build just and lasting peace in the Middle East for Israel, Palestine and its Arab neighbours.

“We know from our own story that finding peace can be a long and painful process, and it takes time to build trust and build relationships. American politicians on both sides of the aisle helped to encourage and nurture these relationships in Northern Ireland over many decades, and we thank you all so much for that.”

Speaking ahead of a key bilateral between the two leaders, Mr Biden also thanked the Taoiseach for the reception he received during his visit to Ireland last year.

“As a matter of fact, my family wasn’t sure we wanted to come home,” he said.

“It’s great to see you again, great chance to return some of the hospitality that you provided me when I was in Ireland last. And I know there are all kinds of old Irish sayings, but my grandfather Finnegan used to say, ‘May the hinge of our friendship never go rusty’.

“He had all these sayings – the Irish in America, sometimes they’re more Irish than the Irish – but I don’t think we’re going to let it go rusty.”

He said they were also marking 100 years of diplomatic relationships between Ireland and the United States.

Read more:
‘Stop the money’ – Robinson urges Taoiseach to press Biden on military support for Israel

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